It’s been three weeks since Jay Beagle was knocked out in a fight by Pittsburgh’s Arron Asham on Oct. 13 and suffered a concussion that has kept him out of the lineup. This weekend, while the rest of the Capitals are on the road for a set of back-to-back games against the Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders, Beagle hopes to take the next step in his return to game action and skate for the first time since that game against the Penguins.
“I’ve got a couple tests coming up, I think tomorrow,” Beagle said Thursday. “Hopefully that goes well and I can get on the ice tomorrow.”
Because he hasn’t been allowed to skate, Beagle has spent the past 21 days working on maintaining his conditioning level in the weight room, riding the stationary bike and champing at the bit to get back out on the ice with his teammates.
Beagle, 26, who started the season on an NHL roster for the first time in his career this year, has wanted to get back in from the moment he was stitched up in Pittsburgh. He came to practice the next day and watched film, but he was held back from hitting the ice by the Capitals’ training staff.
“For things like head injuries, not many people know about them. That’s what’s scary about them. Doctors, there’s MRIs they can do,” Beagle said. “It’s not a broken bone where you can be like, ‘Hey it’s broken; here, put a cast on it.’ That’s why you’ve got to be cautious with those things and make sure that you’re feeling one hundred percent before going back and doing anything, because you don’t want to have something else that triggers it and you’re out for the season or a couple months. A couple weeks doesn’t seem like very long compared to a season or a couple months.”
Beagle himself wouldn’t go so far as to call his injury a concussion, but the recovery process and protocol he is going through is the process to return from a concussion. Before players can be cleared to play they must be symptom free at rest, symptom free with exertion and then pass neuropsychological testing.
“When you have concussions there’s the protocol of what you have to go through and he’s done everything, so next one is skating,” said Coach Bruce Boudreau, who called it a “great sign” that Beagle will try to skate for the first time at Kettler Capitals Iceplex while the team is on the road this weekend.
Boudreau said he’s glad that concussion protocols — whether the NHL’s or that of medical doctors — exist for the players’ own protection, given how eager they are to return.
“Rather than me make the decision, absolutely. I don’t want that responsibility,” Boudreau said. “If you feel good, you want to get out there but you need somebody for your own protection to tell you you’re not ready to go yet.”